By Eric Berger
BONSAL, N.C. — A quarter-century after the North Carolina Railway Museum acquired four railcars at Duke Energy’s Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant, those cars and six others completed the five-mile journey from the plant to the museum in Bonsal on May 12. Once work began, the move took just four days, thanks to the concerted efforts of the contractor and dedicated volunteers.
The initial group of cars acquired back in the 1990s included three heavyweight passenger cars and one of the last Chesapeake & Ohio Railway 60-foot high cube plug door boxcars in original paint. Later on, Duke Energy donated the other cars, including some cabooses. The cars sat at the plant for years and access was limited due to security concerns following September 11. But the museum never forgot about the cars and launched a “Save The Ten” fundraiser to gather the $100,000 needed to move the cars.
The gem of the group is “Calais” a Pullman sleeper built in 1916. Pullman sold “Calais” to Seaboard Air Line at the end of 1947 for use as a foreman/cook car on maintenance-of-way trains. At some point, its rear end was modified to resemble the platform of an open-end observation car. The other heavyweight cars are an Atlantic Coast Line Baggage-Express car and a former Pullman baggage/Railway Post Office car, built for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad and eventually acquired by the original Norfolk Southern Railway to be repurposed as a “camp car” for maintenance crews. The cabooses, Carolina Power & Light 10002 and 10009, were found to be in very good condition and since they have air conditioners will soon be used on the museum’s New Hope Valley Railway excursions.
The North Carolina Railway Museum dates back to 1983 when members of the East Carolina Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society pooled their resources to purchase roughly five miles of track and railyard and property in Bonsal. The museum has a number of diesel and steam locomotives.